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The Real Reason Why Sasha Alexander Left NCIS & What She’s Doing Now

The Real Reason Why Sasha Alexander Left NCIS & What She’s Doing Now

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Shocking moments are common on television shows to keep the storylines interesting and the audiences guessing. NCIS has been on the air since 2003, which means it’s had plenty of time for surprises.

The first major twist of the popular military police procedural actually happened at the end of season 2. Major character Kate Todd, played by Sasha Alexander, left the show with a literal bang that nobody saw coming.

Because she was so integral to the NCIS team for the first two seasons and her departure was so upsetting, many fans still wonder if it was Alexander’s choice to leave or someone else’s.

Read on to find out the truth behind why Sasha Alexander left NCIS and how her departure affected her career and the fans of the show.

Why Did Sasha Alexander Leave NCIS?

Sasha Alexander wanted a lighter workload on NCIS, which led to the co-creator deciding to kill her character, Caitlin ‘Kate’ Todd.

That may sound like an act of vengeance, but apparently the decision to kill character Kate Todd was to kill two birds with one stone – albeit in the most dramatic way possible.

Close of actress Sasha Alexander as Kate on NCIS

In 2012, Sasha Alexander explained to TV Guide why she wanted to leave. “People don’t realize that on a network show, you make 24 episodes a year — that’s 10½ months a year, 17 hours a day. It’s hardcore.”

When head writer Donald P. Bellisario learned that Sasha Alexander wanted a lighter workload, he saw an opportunity to increase the stakes of NCIS. As executive producer Charles Floyd Johnson put it, “Bellisario was always a writer who went for the cataclysmic.”

“I wanted to do a shocker,” Bellisario himself explained, “so that’s what I did, and people didn’t expect that at all. It came out of nowhere.”

He reportedly said to Alexander, “Good news — your workload is going to be lighter. But you’re [character is] going to die.”

Johnson said he didn’t believe Sasha intended to leave the show when she asked for a lighter workload. However, Bellisario has a reputation for being “a tough taskmaster.” Shooting NCIS took long hours and his creative methods caused tension with other cast members besides Alexander.

Notably, Don Harmon also had trouble working with Bellisario. Harmon had his own reputation as liking things done in very particular ways. “Mark Harmon is a lovely man,” Charles Johnson said, “but he has a very strong, male, no-nonsense point of view in terms of who he was.

The tension between Harmon and Bellisario ultimately resulted in Bellisario leaving NCIS in 2007 in a creative capacity. The show still lists him as an executive producer, however.

Will Sasha Alexander Ever Come Back To NCIS?

Sasha Alexander will likely not return to NCIS because her character died on-screen from a bullet to the head. The only feasible way for her to return would be in a flashback.

Kate Todd died in the season 2 finale of NCIS in 2005. The show is now going into its 21st season. In the intervening time, Sasha Alexander only had two other appearances on the show (one of which was uncredited).

Caitlin 'Kate' Todd in an NCIS scene at a hospital

While shows sometimes bring back characters after they seemingly die, Kate’s death seemed very final since she died on-screen. And there’s been no indication so far that she somehow faked her death.

So, Sasha Alexander likely won’t be returning anytime soon, but the actor is okay with that. “I really firmly believe in my heart that I would not be where I am today — happily married, with two kids, doing things creatively that I want — if I had stayed.”

“I didn’t want to wake up and be in my forties and go, “Oh, my gosh!”

Kate’s Death On NCIS Shocked Cast And Fans Alike

The writers of NCIS kept the death of Sasha Alexander’s character very secret, so it shocked both the cast and the audiences when it happened.

Mark Horowitz, an executive producer, told Hollywood Reporter that Alexander’s death was the first huge secret of the show. “Only one script page of her being shot was ever printed, and they read it in person, and it was returned every time.”

“The film was broken off from the rest of the film shot for that day. Also, we actually shot an alternate ending. Even my wife didn’t know.” He said that his wife jumped out of her chair when a sniper suddenly shot Kate Todd on screen.

Kate on NCIS laying in a coffin

Horowitz’s wife wasn’t the only one feeling surprised. Social Media wasn’t as huge in 2012 as it is today, but fans are still talking about when Sasha Alexander left NCIS.

A Reddit user started a thread in 2021 after watching the show for the first time. “Kate just died. I’m sad,” they wrote.

There are plenty of comments from other fans, including one who wrote, “That was a big shock when it happened. I did not see that coming. It was so sudden and brutal.”

“Kate’s death was so jarring…I still miss her,” wrote another commenter. Clips of Sasha Alexander’s death scene on YouTube also have many similar comments.

“I remembered when I first watched this I was completely shocked, starring [sic] blankly at the tv with no idea what […] had just happened…Definitely one of those tv deaths I will never get over.”

It’s obvious that even 20 years down the road, Sasha Alexander’s sudden departure from NCIS still stands out as a huge surprise to the show’s viewers.

What Is Sasha Alexander Doing Now?

Sasha Alexander continued to find success on TV after leaving NCIS, most notably in one of the lead roles on TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles.

Actress Sasha Alexander at the 11th Annual Governors Awards in 2019
Credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

After leaving NCIS in 2005, Sasha Alexander mostly worked on films, including Mission: Impossible III (2006), Yes Man (2008), and He’s Just Not That Into You (2009).

But in 2010, Alexander found another lead role in a TV series, one for which she became even more recognized for. She played the titular Maura Isles on Rizzoli & Isles for six seasons over seven years until 2016.

Her next major TV role was as Helene Runyon on Shameless (2015) for 11 episodes. Since then, Sasha Alexander has done a mix of movies and guest appearances on TV shows. Her most recent roles include the 2020 animated movie Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons and one episode each of Law & Order and The Morning Show, both in 2023.